OUR FIRST SUNDAY, A DAY TO BE REMEMBERED!
I had my sermon prepared and ready to be delivered following the appropriate number of songs and prayer. The telephone rang in the office and one of the elders left the assembly and answered it. Just before Kirby Phelps was to lead the church in a song prior to my sermon, an elder stood and made the announcement that Ann Faulk had died suddenly earlier that Sunday morning. The brothers and sisters were in a state of shock. Kirby and his wife Mary Lou were very close friends of Ann and her husband Bob Faulk. He could hardly sing because his heart was broken and filled with sorrow. My heart went out to him. When the song had been sung, l left my sermon outline on the front pew and walked up to the podium and spoke what was on my heart, a lesson about the uncertainty of life and that death was no respecter of age and I expressed the deepest of sympathy to her family. I believe Ann was only 42 years old. She and Bob had brought food to our home just a couple of days before her death. In retrospect, wisdom should have been used in announcing her sudden passing from this life until just before the closing prayer. Bob and I became very close friends the time we lived in Greenville.
A BRAND NEW HOUSE
The new ‘preacher’s house’ had just been completed when we moved to Greenville. It was located in a very nice neighbor across from the Country Club and golf course on Forest Court. I just imagine that some of the neighbors were hoping while the house was being built that it was not going to be a ‘Jim Walters’ house. Not! It had four bedrooms, three baths, a nice size den and a large dinning room. The carpet throughout the house was white as were the walls. Not good when a preacher, his wife and four children were moving in it. The clay was red and so were the clothes and the shoes of the children while playing outside. To say the least, we really ‘broke the house in’ for the following preachers and their families.
CONJUGATING A VERB WHILE PREACHING
One Sunday morning I was preaching about Peter’s denial of the Lord and when the Lord had predicted when he would do it – when the cock would crow. Well I happened to place an adverb, had, before crew and in my mind I began to conjugate that verb and it was then I realized I was in trouble. A good teacher friend of mine was sitting on the second pew upfront and she was really enjoying my problem. I stopped my speech immediately and started over by saying something like “Peter realized what Jesus had said when He told him that he would deny Him when the cock crew.” Perfect in speech, I am not.
A PREACHER WHO LOVES SOUTHERN COOKING
Claude Flynn had not been in Alabama very long before he was preaching in a gospel meeting for us at the Walnut Street church. He paid a compliment to our ladies when he said that southern women were the best cooks in the world; however, he stated that he had never been able to eat two vegetables – turnip greens and boiled okra. Claude mentioned that he had tried turnip greens by putting ketchup or mustard on them but he still did not like to eat them. Concerning boiled okra he said that he never liked to have anything in his mouth over which he did not have full control!
I JUST HAPPENED TO BE THERE OR WHAT?
On Sunday afternoon, October 25, 1970, I visited a family south of Greenville for the first time because they had manifested some interest in the gospel. I did not know they
had a son who was in the Viet Nam conflict. While standing on the front porch a gentleman drove up and asked for the soldier’s parents. The father identified himself and received the telegram from the war department with the news that their son had been seriously wounded while in action in Viet Nam. The distraught father looked at me and expressed his belief that I had been sent to their home just at the time they received such sad news concerning their son. I know this experience moved me emotionally and caused me to record this incident in my log that occurred some 43 years ago.
I FELT LIKE I WAS LOOKING AT GOLIATH
I preached every Sunday morning on the local radio station while living in Greenville. Following our program was a preacher for some holiness group. I began a series of lessons regarding the miracles that Jesus Christ and the apostles performed in the first century. I also taught from the Bible that such miracles did not occur presently. Well, this preacher began to argue that they did occur and that he had performed some miracles. Not only that, he became very belligerent and to insult me personally. There were some times when I was so upset it was difficult for me to teach my Sunday morning Bible class. I believe it was at the local funeral home where I was visiting a family when I heard his voice. I knew who it was immediately, so, with my legs shaking, I walked up to this man who towered over me like a giant (as I remember) and spoke to him. I introduced myself and I said to him that I thought we should keep our debate on the radio in a gentlemanly fashion. That was a real lesson to me. With God’s help we can overcome our fear and face our foes. From that time forward he never insulted me again while preaching on the radio.
OUR NEIGHBORS WERE NOT TERRORISTS BUT TERRELLS
There were some woods between our houses but our daughters made a path between our homes. Bobby and Mary Lou Terrell had a child named Angie and our daughter’s name was Angela. These two children became good friends and we became close friends with Bobby and Mary Lou and family and that friendship has continued until the present time. Bobby was a member of the country club and he got permission for me to play golf with him. I was a novice and he was a semi-pro in my opinion but I remember the day I really challenged him by ending up with the same score as his – 42. Not bad for part-time golfer.
DEATH OF MY FATHER
It was on Thursday afternoon, February 26, 1970 that sister Frances Cochran, a close friend of my family, called and informed me that my father, Walter Matthew Elliott had died while cleaning a church building. My heart was broken. He was only 66 years old at his passing from this life. His funeral was conducted on Saturday, February 28, 1970 in the South Commerce Street church of Christ building. He was buried in the Unity cemetery on Sand Mountain near Henagar, Alabama.
IT WAS WHILE LIVING IN GREENVILLE THAT I BECAME AN ADDICT
Now don’t get ahead of me in this story. You see I have always done some hunting, even when a boy. Living in north Georgia we usually hunted for small game like rabbits, squirrels and quail. Max Autrey was of the large Autrey family who lived between Greenville and Fort Deposit on old U.S. 31. They owned some 3,500 acres which contained plenty of woods, pasture land, some cultivated acres and streams of water. I asked Max if I might hunt squirrels on their property and he said that would be just fine. I was using my Dad’s old16 gauge shotgun with a full choke which was very good in harvesting squirrels. I began seeing what I thought were large chicken tracks but Max informed me I was looking at wild turkey tracks. Not only that but I began to see deer and that was the time my fiend when I became addicted to deer and turkey hunting. I killed my first turkey on the Autrey property and took it up to Max’s home and his sweet wife, Deane, had a lady to pluck the feathers and dressed out that turkey. I did not know how to prepare such a large fowl for cooking. But I was hooked, addicted or whatever you may call it but I have enjoyed looking for the evasive deer and wild turkeys since 1969.
OUR DIFFICULT DECISION TO MOVE FROM GREENVILLE
When we moved to Greenville in 1969 the public schools were partially integrated with full integration to occur the following year. That was not a problem for our family. Wednesday, September 2, 1970, was the day for registration for the children who would be attending the school where two of our children were enrolled. Many of the parents who brought their children to the middle school were not happy and decided not to register their children and left. A committee of Kenneth Cumbie, Bobby Brannon and I conducted a meeting in the county courthouse to encourage parents to keep their children in the middle school where our children were in attendance. There were about 100 parents present. A new private school was planned in addition to the one already located in Greenville. I knew that I could not afford a private school for our four children. The elders of the Opp church approached me about considering the work there. My good friend Roger Dill had been preaching for them for some 51/2 years and he and his family were moving to Valdosta, Georgia. We made the decision to move after much prayer about the situation in Greenville. The Walnut Street elders understood our decision to move and our relationship with that congregation has been excellent over the years. I have always appreciated their understanding and brotherly love. I tell people that I conducted the longest gospel meeting ever for the Walnut Street church – 11/2 years!